Ask a petrolhead to think of Subaru and rallying won’t be too far from the forefront of their mind. ★★★★★
The Japanese firm’s turbocharged, four-wheel drive saloons and hatchbacks are a familiar sight on special stages across the globe. This competition pedigree doesn’t go to waste, their road cars benefit from lessons learnt from rallying too. This however, is a very different kind of Subaru.
While there may be the familiar 2.0 litre flat-four boxer engine up front, there is no turbo. Nor is there four-wheel drive, just the rear tyres are powered. The expected levels of four or five-door practicality are absent as well, there may be four seats (just) but these are accessed by only two doors. Welcome to the BRZ.
At this point, the more observant of you might be feeling a little déjà vu. That’s because the BRZ has a brother, a car that I’ve already tested – the Toyota GT86. There are three very good reasons for sampling this Subaru though. Firstly, the BRZ is completely standard, unlike the GT86 I tried. Secondly, the Subaru is different in its suspension setup and thirdly, I was desperate for another go with this chassis.
Like the GT86, the Subaru BRZ has 200hp at a heady 7,000rpm, a six-speed manual gearbox (an auto is available) and a limited slip differential to help channel the power to the road. Visually the cars look very similar at first glance although the front bumper, faux wing vents and badges are different. Inside, there are different dials, dashboard trim and infotainment systems.
In the case of the test car, infotainment is pushing it somewhat. There’s no sat-nav, Bluetooth or even a touchscreen, just an AM/FM radio, CD player plus an aux-in and iPod connectivity. With most people now possessing Smartphones with navigation included, I don’t think this is too much of an issue. The rest of the interior is well made but unmistakably Japanese – an Audi TT it isn’t.
The BRZ is a very different proposition to the TT though. Not only is it up to £5,000 cheaper, the Subaru puts driving dynamics above all else. Drop into the low-set and fantastically figure hugging sports seat and you’ll notice the peaks of the front wings show you exactly where the centres of the front tyres are. Thumb the starter button and the engine fires into a distinctive idle, the scene is set.
Slot the gearstick into first and you can’t help but notice the short, mechanical feeling action that will become very familiar. Unlike modern turbocharged engines that deliver power from what feels like little over idle, the naturally aspirated flat four thrives on revs. While it will pull from under 2,000rpm, you need at least 4,500rpm on the dial before it starts to feel genuinely quick.
It’s once you get to a set of corners that everything clicks though. The BRZ rides on the same kind of tyres that are fitted to the Toyota Prius meaning there isn’t vast amounts of grip. That may seem strange for a sports car but it’s this that makes it such a blast. Unlike many performance cars, you don’t have to be travelling at ludicrous speed for things to get interesting.
Even going well within the speed limit, you can feel the chassis working under you. Initially you’ll feel the front run wide but a little bit of commitment will soon see the car oversteering in a wonderfully controllable manner. Never does it feel scary yet it excites and entertains in equal measure. The steering may feel a little odd around the straight ahead but it proves quick and with enough feedback to know exactly what is going on up front.
Despite the stunning handling, the BRZ is also a lot more comfortable than you’d expect too. You do feel bumps but they are smothered well enough while the car never feels crashy. Compared to the tweaked GT86 I tried, it’s a revelation – you could genuinely use it every day. There’s also a surprisingly large boot and the promise of near faultless reliability as well.
Naturally, there are downsides. While the boot is decently sized, the gap is quite narrow and the seats don’t fold forward a great deal. Trying to squeeze a not overly big box into the back was quite a hassle. It’s also thirsty (I averaged just under 35mpg), not as well equipped as many hot hatchbacks and slower too. As for the rear seats, they’re suitable for children or the shortest of adults only.
As you may have guessed already, for me the positives far outweigh the negatives here. Sure it could be more practical but at the end of the day, it’s a coupe. To make a car look like this, practicality will be sacrificed. As for performance, there’s plenty of aftermarket parts out there to make it as fast as you want. Me? I’d be tempted to leave it standard; I’ve never known a car entertain so much at less than 30mph. I want one so badly it hurts.
Not overly practical
It isn’t mine
Car – Subaru BRZ SE Lux
Price – £23,995
Power – 200hp
0-62mph – 7.6 seconds
Top Speed – 143mph
Co2 – 181g/km
I’ve loved cars for as long as I can remember and love to share my passion for them.